Milburn proposes vouchers to end 'ghetto education'

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The Government has been urged to bring in "vouchers" to help thousands of children from poor families escape failing schools.

Although education vouchers have traditionally been favoured by the Tory right, the former cabinet minister Alan Milburn wants Labour to hand over a "credit" worth 150 per cent of the cost of a child's education to allow pupils to move to better schools. The limits on school expansion would be lifted to allow schools to accept children with the vouchers.

The call is part of a drive by Blairites to propose reforms they hope will be implemented by Gordon Brown, Tony Blair's likely successor, who is cautious about "choice" in public services.

The former health secretary argued that Mr Blair's flagship city academy programme would not do enough to help children out of the "educational ghetto". Last year, almost 240,000 GCSE students were taught in 485 schools which fail to get more than 30 per cent of their pupils obtaining five good passes.

Parents should get a new right to choose a different school through an "education credit". The credit could not be topped up but be used in any state school.

Mr Milburn said the scheme should be piloted in the 55 primary and 33 secondary schools which have been in "special measures" for at least 12 months. Mr Milburn acknowledged that there was "some way to go" to achieving customer-focused, person-centred services.

Last month, he proposed piloting an "NHS credit" payable to patients with chronic conditions to give them the choice of direct control over services.